A drive up the Columbia

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Multnomah Falls, Oregon

This evening after I was finished in Portland with OSCON, I took a drive east to take a look at the Columbia River Gorge. Specifically, I wanted to drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway [map] to see views of the river as well as some of the waterfalls on the southern side. Now, I’m a born and bred US Northeasterner but I’ve travelled a lot, and I have never seen falls like these.

I took the short walk into Latourell Falls and found myself saying “oh, wow” repeatedly as I walked closer and closer, corny as it may sound. The falls break over a sheer edge and then freefall before landing in the center of a pool and then running off into a stream that empties into the Columbia. All the rock surrounding it is hardened lava (basalt?), and the walls are both smooth where erosion has taken place but also cubical in areas where pieces have broken off. The dark color of the rock and the green vegetation just add to the feeling that you are somewhere special, almost a cathedral in the forest.

There were a few more falls and scenic overlooks, but my main destination was Multnomah. This is the real tourist destination, with exits off the interstate driving traffic to the spot. This is the second highest falls in the US, over 600 feet vertical drop. Since it was evening, it was not too crowded, and it seemed like a perfect time to visit. By this point I was seriously regretting that I had not brought my camera but then I remembered that my new mobile phone (the one that works in rural upstate New York) was a camera phone. So I grabbed it and took the photos shown.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

You can hike a mile or so to the top of the falls, but it is an easy .2 mile hike on a paved path to the bridge. This is pretty much where I stopped, took in the view and mist for a few minutes, and then headed back down. My loafers don’t make the best hiking shoes either, and that factored into my decision to end where I did. I looked into but didn’t buy anything at the gift shop though I did go the restaurant. I can’t really recommend the food there. Though the surroundings were beautiful, the names of the dishes aspired to be something greater than they turned out to be culinarily, and the service was on the slow side.

The drive to the airport along the Columbia was fast since I took the interstate back. The sun was setting and, as I finish this, I still have two hours before my red-eye home. I’ve spent time in the Seattle area and now a bit of time around Portland. An extended trip into the Cascades is definitely on the travel to-do list, including more time exploring the Columbia.


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